Tag: Scotland

May 18

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: A Catastrophic British Election Result, where do we go from here?

By NY Brit Expat

Like everyone else, I got it wrong. I was expecting a Tory minority government propped up by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the UK Independence Party (UKIP) if needed to get legislation passed.

It was also clear that the Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems) had been courting the Tories hoping for another small shot at power; their slogan that “they would give the Tories a heart and Labour a brain” really made me think that they had never understood the Wizard of Oz; if they had, they would have realised that the Wizard was a fraud who only granted what the Tin man (heart) and Straw man (a brain) already had; provision of a testimonial and a diploma do not change reality, only perceptions of reality. I wondered who wrote their script; revealing that you are frauds is never a good idea for a political party.

I was at a friend’s house planning to watch the beginning of the election results there and then I saw the exit polls. I gasped and my stomach screamed! I thought surely this was wrong. I grasped at straws: it didn’t include postal votes, people do not always tell the truth (in the US people deny that they wouldn’t vote for a person of colour as they do not openly want to admit their racism) … I went home to watch a national nightmare unfold (one does not put a fist through your friends’ only telly, it is certainly not good guest behaviour).  

The exit polls (316 Conservatives/Tories, 239 Labour, 58 SNP, 10 Liberal Democrats, 2 UKIP, 2 Greens, 4 Plaid Cymru) actually underestimated the extent of the damage. The Tories were predicted to be heading towards a minority government; I thought that was bad enough, but it was nothing compared to the final result.

While I knew that the Lib Dems were signing their own death warrant by joining the Tories in coalition, I thought that they would lose seats in the Labour heartlands (Northwest and Northeast) squeezed by Labour, lose their seats in University towns that they won from their opposition to the Iraq war (due to their support of increasing university tuition fees which they opposed in their manifesto). I expected student votes to go to the Greens, but not enough to give them the seats which went to Labour), but I thought that they would hold historical bases of support in Devon and Cornwall (where the main opposition is Tory); I had underestimated the obvious fact that why vote Tory-lite when you can have the Tories in all their glory?

I knew Labour would suffer severe losses in Scotland (their unionism during the elections, corruption of Labour councils up there, the uselessness of the carrot offered by Gordon Brown towards the end of the referendum and strong opposition to austerity in Scotland), but wiped out except for 1 seat in Glasgow was more than I expected. In Scotland, I knew that the Lib Dems would hold Orkney (and lose everything else; I stayed up to watch Lib Dem chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander‘s head roll which given everything else was a small bright spot in election results); the Tories have been very weak in Scotland for a while, so their having one seat near the Scottish borders does not surprise me at all. But the Scottish National Party winning 56 seats was beyond my expectations (and their own, I think).

I went to bed at 6:30am stressed out and still hoping for a Tory minority government. I woke up to a political nightmare. The Tories have won a majority, they do not need the DUP, they do not need UKIP (who only won 1 seat anyway; small favours, but they took their first local council in Thanet). They most certainly do not need the Lib Dems; who will be very lonely sitting in Parliament.

Oct 12

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Redux On The National Question … Scotland and Kurdistan by NY Brit Expat

Two more different places do not come to mind, yet what we have been witnessing are two instances of the national question which have been in the news recently. I was originally going to write only on Scotland, but the immediacy of the catastrophe that is happening to the Kurds in Syria and the fight being waged against great odds while the world watches (and literally the Turkish army sits in its tanks watching while prevented Turkish Kurds from joining the fight in support of those fighting in Kobaně) needs to be addressed. So I decided to discuss both issues and to ask where the left stands and where it should stand on what should have been termed historically the national question and what criteria we should use to ascertain whether there is a legitimate issue that should be supported.

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As we watch the power of states in the advanced capitalist world be weakened through the internationalisation of capital beyond national borders, one would think that the national question (a question arising at the end of the 19th century with the consolidation of nation states like Germany and Italy in the 1870s in the context of the consolidation of bourgeois nationalism and then the creation in the early 20th century of new nation states following the collapse of the Hapsburg and Ottoman Empires, e.g., Hungary, Greece, Czechoslovakia) would have ceased to be a relevant consideration. However, even as we sit here and watch the control over “domestic” capital weaken in state by state (this can be easily seen in the inability to control taxation of profits of MNCs), the issue of the national question still raises its head.  This is not only the situation in the post-world war II period of anti-colonialist struggles (e.g., India, Algeria, Mozambique, Zimbabwe), nor the struggle against neo-colonialism and imperialism’s attempts to control the economic and political situations in other countries, but also includes the issue of the rights of nations currently in union, through historical circumstance, or forced through being conquered historically to be part of a state (e.g., The Basque, Catalonia, Scotland, Wales).    

Since both questions impact significantly on the issue of anti-imperialist in theory and practice, they bring to the fore issues that the Left needs to address. Inevitably, there will be differences among the Left due to different perspectives on the both the acceptance of the right of self-determination, the issue of nation-state themselves, and how this impacts upon anti-imperialist struggles.

Sep 15

Scotland The Brave

On Thursday, September 18, Scottish voters will decide if Scotland should secede from the United Kingdom. Polling shows that the vote is too close to call and the outcome is heavily dependent on workers turning out

The dramatic surge in support for the yes vote has made next week’s referendum on Scottish independence too close to call, prompting a panic across London’s political spectrum that has prompted offers of new political concessions to persuade want-away Scots to stay. But the secessionist impulse is being fueled by long-term economic changes that have left Scotland’s working class increasingly disenchanted with the economic policies of Britain’s major political parties.

Last Monday former Labor Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a Scot, hurriedly announced that, if Scotland remains part of the union, it will get significant new financial powers as well as greater control over its welfare and benefits system. These reforms would be delivered, Brown said, on the basis of an accelerated legislative timetable. “A no vote on 18 September will not be an endpoint but the starting gun for action,” he said. “We are demanding a tight timetable with tough deadlines and streamlined procedures … The alternative to an irreversible separation is a more powerful Scottish parliament.”

The current Prime Minister David Cameron made dire warnings about the consequences of a slit with the UK:

In an emotional speech on his final visit north of the border before polling day, the prime minister warned that a yes vote would end the UK “for good, for ever” and would deprive the Scottish people of a shared currency and pooled pension arrangements.

In a seeming attempt to reach out to voters who might be tempted to support independence to free Scotland from the Tories, Cameron said that he would not be prime minister forever – but a break with the rest of the UK would be permanent.

Mr. Cameron got a little help from British ex-patriot, John Oliver, host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight.” Well, almost.

Over the course of the show’s main segment, Oliver looked at the rival political operations, including the “Better Together” campaign’s slogan, “No thanks.” As the host said, “‘No thanks’ is a violently British way to refuse something. That is just one step away from ‘Oh, I couldn’t possibly.'”

Later, Oliver turned to British Prime Minister David Cameron’s feeble attempts to keep the United Kingdom united. “He embodies all of the things I hate most about England,” Oliver said of Cameron, “and I’m English!” Showing a particularly damning photo of Cameron at Oxford, he added, “That is the face of a man who fast-forwards through the servant parts of Downton Abbey.”

Finally, Oliver decided to make his case for Scotland staying with the UK using the kind of grand, sweeping, romantic gesture found in films like Love Actually. Surrounded by bagpipe players and Scotland’s inexplicable official animal, the unicorn, Oliver used written placards to plead, “Don’t go, Scotland!”

Jan 05

Gerry Rafferty, 1947- 2011, Scottish Bard of “Baker Street”

Gerry Rafferty, April 16, 1947  –  January 4, 2011  the Scottish singer songwriter best known for “Baker Street,”  (1978) which took saxophones and made them sing like bagpipes doing jazz,  has passed away at home.  He was 63.



Jerry Rafferty

Gerry Rafferty

the lyrics, Baker Street. (The song’s iconic musical saxophone riffs were played by Raphael Ravenscroft. )

Winding your way down on Baker Street

Light in your head and dead on your feet

well another crazy day you’ll drink the night away

and forget about everything

this city desert makes you feel so cold

it’s got so many people but it’s got no soul

and it’s taken you so long to find out that you were wrong

and forget about everything

You used to think it was so easy

you used to say it was so easy

but you’re tryin’   you’re try -in’ now

Another year and then you’ll be happy

just one more year and then you’ll be happy

but you’re crying,  you’re cryin’ now

(music riff )

Way down the street there a light in his place

He opens the door, he’s got that look on his face

and he asks you where you’ve been you tell him who you’ve seen

And you talk about everything

He’s got this dream about buyin’ some land

He’s gonna give up the booze and the one night stands

and then he’ll settle down

in a quiet little town

and forget about everything

But you know he’ll always keep moving

You know he’s never going to stop movin’

He’s rolling, he’s a rolling stone

And when you wake up it’s a new morning

THe sun is shining, it’s a new morning

But you’re going, you’re going home

(music riff )

Aug 17

Scotland: united public sector action against real wage cuts (There may be lessons to be learned!)

Original article, and editorial/news release, vial Socialist Appeal:

On Wednesday 20th August up to 150,000 public sector workers in Scotland will be taking unified action on pay. GMB, UNISON and Unite members will all be on strike because local government workers have been offered a measly 2.5% a year deal over three years. This after the Cost and Price Index published last week shows the cost of living going up by 4.4%. This sudden jump has called the government’s bluff. Everybody knows the CPI doesn’t reflect the real increase in prices we face.

Here in Indiana, our public sector workers aren’t officially able to collective bargain.  It’s up to the whim of the governor if they’re allowed to (I belive they were able to for a bit before Mitch became governor, but he took it away from them).  Indiana, home to Eugene Debbs, Mother Jones and other great labor leaders, is a right to work state.

Feb 05

Bootleg Pony: Piped In

In the spirit of a popular front against the forces of anti-poniness, the Anarcho-Syndicalist Pony Liberation Front (ASPLF) has allied with more mainstream pro-pony forces to bring you an officially sanctioned Bootleg Pony.

As for your author ? Well, the subject of my Scots roots has come up lately, and ranged from nicknames to the inevitable kilt questions (“Well ?”) to a sporran-and-kilt reunion of sorts with our own outstanding climatologist stormchaser. One thing that comes to my mind is the love-hate relationship Scots themselves have with aspects of their own culture. For example, do you choose to say someone’s “strangling the cat,” (no, not that …) or playing the pipes ? Myself, I love the bagpipes. Never learned how to play but given their skill with wind instruments I have some hopes for my kids (actually I think the youngest will skirl, the middle one’s more of a Highland dancer.) But pipes, hmmm, different things come to mind.